If all goes as planned, spring 2023 will herald the opening of a new public park serving the Stone Oak area and San Antonio’s first public, free, all-inclusive playground, city officials said.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held Nov. 20 at Classen-Steubing Ranch Park, where construction has started on a half-acre plot of land to accommodate Mitchell’s Landing, an all-inclusive playground for children, adults, caregivers and families of all abilities, according to local nonprofit Mitchell Chang Foundation.

The city is developing the first phase of amenities of Classen-Steubing Ranch Park along Hardy Oak Boulevard, including a paved trail, baseball and softball fields, and a pavilion.

Mitchell’s Landing was conceived by area residents April and Marvin Chang, who through the Mitchell Chang Foundation have raised more than $1.5 million to develop an inclusive playground named after their son, who at age 3 drowned at a North Side swim school in February 2018.

“We are here to kick off something monumental and historic,” April Chang said at the ceremony.

According to the Mitchell Chang Foundation, the playground will have a pirate theme, based on Mitchell Chang’s love for pirates, and feature three play structures: a pirate ship, a mermaid lagoon and a Spanish colonial mission.

Foundation representatives said the playground will also have 22 stand-alone play items, all carefully selected to create a balance of equipment pieces that boost users’ developmental growth and stimulation opportunities.

“We are here because we believe in Mitchell’s story. We believe in the need for more inclusive play in the San Antonio parks system, and we’re here to bring it,” April Chang said.

April Chang previously told Community Impact the foundation ordered custom-designed equipment from Chattanooga, Tennessee-based playground manufacturer PlayCore.

Project representatives said costs for the $2.2 million playground include about $700,000 in infrastructure work being provided by the city as an in-kind donation.

April Chang thanked the city, chain grocer H-E-B, nonprofit Will Smith Foundation and other contributors for partnering on the playground project.

“They’re working with us to make this an amazing playground for everyone,” April Chang said.

District 9 City Council Member John Courage said Mitchell’s Landing will be a special aspect of Classen-Steubing Ranch Park.

“It’s an amazing addition to any city park, in any community,” Courage said.

Courage also said voter passage of the city’s $1.2 billion bond last May provides $6 million to fund future amenities at Classen-Steubing Ranch Park.

“It’s a wonderful park, and it’ll be tied into another one nearby, Stone Oak Park, and that’ll really enhance the entire community and allow people to share even more of the nature that we have available here,” Courage said.

Parks and Recreation Director Homer Garcia said the Chang family, their foundation and their project partners mapped out a special vision for a playground that could benefit all community members.

“I’m very thankful for you and your presence in our community to gift this to the citizens of San Antonio, and that you trust the parks and recreation department to take good care of it, and we will,” Garcia said.

Susan Naylor founded the Will Smith Foundation after her son Will Smith died at age 8 in an 2007 auto accident. The foundation said it helps to provide positive life experiences for children by partnering with other nonprofits focused on improving the lives of children in Texas, Hawaii and Africa.

Naylor said it was during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when April Chang contacted the Will Smith Foundation for help on the playground project.

Naylor said she and Chang bonded over their experience of losing a child at a young age and starting a nonprofit in their child’s memory with the aim of bettering children’s lives.

“I felt this connection and called her immediately. This has been such a big battle for her and Marvin,” Naylor said.